How Michael Cohen went from saying he would 'take a bullet' for Trump to implicating him in federal crimes

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesMichael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer, exits federal court, August 21, 2018 in New York City. Cohen reached an agreement with prosecutors, pleading guilty to charges involving bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations.
  • Michael Cohen, formerly one of President Donald Trump’s closest allies, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday.
  • Cohen shocked the world when he implicated Trump in two federal crimes during his guilty plea to eight felonies in August.
  • Between 2017 and 2018, Cohen went from stating he’d “take a bullet” for Trump to placing him in serious legal jeopardy.
  • Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys, in August gave Business Insider some insight into what motivated Cohen to turn on Trump.
  • Davis on Wednesday said Cohen plans to continue to cooperate, suggesting he has more to reveal about Trump.

Michael Cohen on Wednesday was sentenced to three years in prison by US District Judge William H. Pauley III for crimes he committed as personal lawyer and fixer to President Donald Trump.

Cohen’s emotional sentencing hearing was emblematic of how drastically his relationship with Trump has shifted over the past year or so.

In September 2017, Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for the president. On Wednesday, he said his “blind loyalty” to Trump took him down a “path of darkness instead of light.”

Cohen apologised for his crimes, stating he’d felt he had a “duty” to “cover up” Trump’s “dirty deeds.”

“Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,” Cohen said to the court.

Cohen went from a trusted fixer to Trump to implicating him in serious crimes

Cohen shocked the world in August when he pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes in the Southern District of New York, and directly implicated President Donald Trump in two of them.

Cohen pleaded guilty to five counts of tax evasion, one count of bank fraud, one count linked to an unlawful corporate contribution, and one count stemming from an illegal campaign contribution. During his hearing, Cohen said he committed the latter two offenses “at the direction” of then-candidate Trump with the intent of influencing the 2016 election.

More recently, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in a plan to build Trump Tower in Moscow, stating discussions on the real estate deal lasted well into the 2016 campaign season. This came after he entered a new plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating Russian election interference and the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion.

A sentencing memo released by federal prosecutors last Friday endorsed Cohen’s implications against the president. It stated Cohen carried out both hush money payments “in coordination with and at the direction” of Trump.

Both the illegal corporate and campaign contributions refer to Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump’s alleged affairs with porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, just weeks before the election.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York initially began investigating Cohen for potential campaign finance law violations in part because of a $US130,000 hush-money payout to Stormy Daniels, but the inquiry expanded to Cohen’s potential tax and bank fraud relating to his taxi medallion business.

But Cohen’s transformation is perhaps most notable because of the dramatic manner in which he turn away from Trump; having gone from saying he would “take a bullet” for Trump, to incriminating him in two serious federal crimes, possibly throwing the US into uncharted constitutional territory.


Read more: Trump has been implicated in several federal crimes, but here’s why experts say he hasn’t faced legal consequences

Why Cohen took the plea deal

Michael cohen trumpLucas Jackson/Reuters; Evan Vucci/AP; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider

Jeffrey Cohen, a practicing attorney in New York City (no relation to Michael Cohen), told Business Insider in a phone call in August that, given the severity of the federal charges involved, taking a plea deal was, in his view, the best way for Cohen to hedge his bets in this matter.

“His lawyers almost definitely knew he was going to lose,” he said. “If you take a plea before trial, you do better than if you try to approach a deal after the government has invested the time and money in trying the case, In this case, my feeling is that he just didn’t have a choice.”

Deputy US Attorney Robert Khuzami said Cohen’s conduct reflected a “pattern of lies and dishonesty” in a press conference after Cohen’s August hearing and said they were “particularly significant when done by a lawyer.” Similar statements were made at Cohen’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday, as prosecutors accused him of engaging in a “pattern of deceit, brazenness and greed.”

“They were going to crucify him,” Jeffrey Cohen speculated. “If he went to trial and he lost, he would have gone to jail for the rest of his life.”

Cohen could have faced up to 65 years of prison, if convicted. He’d hoped his cooperation would translate into no time behind bars, but Judge Pauley on Wednesday said it did “not wipe the slate clean.”

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

In an interview with Business Insider in August, Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said his client “started to unload on me about Trump’s suitability to be president, his temperament, the Twitter, the venom, the anger,” long before he pleaded guilty.

Davis described Trump’s controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for his client.

He said Trump’s public doubting of his intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in favour of Putin’s denial made his client “very emotional.”

Davis described Cohen as feeling “liberated” after entering his guilty pleas and having the freedom to now speak his mind.

Cohen will ‘state publicly all he knows’ about Trump

After Cohen was sentenced on Wednesday, Davis suggested his client had even more to reveal about Trump and would continue to cooperate moving.

Davis said Cohen will “state publicly all he knows” about the president once Mueller completes his probe.

“That includes any appropriate congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trump’s repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts,” Davis said in a statement.

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